Opening Nights: Cinderella

The deck's stacked in favor of the hot chick.

There's nothing too colorful, gaudy, or over-the-top for this holiday revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (a show the famous duo wrote as a 1957 TV production). Directed by Brandon Ivie, it's a sparkly, Disneyfied fairy tale, with everything from the sets to the makeup taking on a cartoon quality. The upside is that children will be entranced. The downside is that the virtue-is-rewarded moral of the original Cinderella story is largely upstaged by campy comedy and expensive gimmickry.

In the 19th-century Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella, the wicked stepsisters are described as "beautiful, with fair faces, but evil and dark hearts." In the 1950 Disney cartoon feature, they're decidedly less attractive than Cinderella, but still most notable for their cruelty. In Ivie's staging, they've been turned into ridiculous, bumbling clowns with no redeeming value. Their fashion is simply silly, and they're made up to look like hookers. (One of them is actually played by a man in drag—Nick Garrison.) Once upon a time, Cinderella taught us that sweetness and sincerity could triumph over vapid social climbing. Here the prince is faced with an easy task: choose the hot girl. (It must be said, though, that Garrison and his fellow wicked sister, Sarah Rudinoff, give everything they can; their duet "Stepsisters' Lament" is a clear audience favorite.)

More problematic for devotees of Rodgers and Hammerstein are the broad liberties taken with the script, now peppered with phrases like "Word up!" and "I know, right?" It's not clear for whom these anachronisms are intended—they're too dull for the adults, and they go over younger kids' heads. Even if the target is tweens, the show often feels dated.

Still, the voices are uniformly beautiful in Cinderella's musical numbers, and Jennifer Paz makes a lovely and graceful heroine. Some of the special effects are truly spectacular, as when the Fairy Godmother (Kendra Kassebaum) shows up and sends sparks flying all over the stage. The sheer quantity of sets and costumes is impressive, if not entirely necessary. Cinderella is a simple tale, but this production team has done everything in its power to make it big and boisterous.

 
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